Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (ESV)
John Byron writes:
In 4:1 Paul reminds them that he instructed them “how to live.” In 4:12 he closes the section with remarks about their “daily life” in relation to outsiders. Both of these translations in the NIV are an accurate expression of what Paul is saying. But they mask what the Greek has to say and an important Jewish way of talking about how people live their lives. In both instances the Greek verb peripateo (“to walk”) is used here, an idiom Paul inherits from the Old Testament. The Hebrew verb halak also means “to walk,” but could also be used to refer to one’s behavior and conduct in relation to God.
For instance, people in the Old Testament who are said to have “walked before God” are Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, but in each case what is meant is the manner in which they pleased God. Similarly, in Psalm 1:1 the one “who does not walk in step with the wicked” is blessed, and in 15:1-2 only those “whose walk is blameless may reside in God’s sanctuary. Judaism would later use this same verb as a synonym for the Jewish law and as a way to talk about the path that every Jew should walk to please God. …
The theology behind all of this is that pleasing God cannot be viewed as a series of random or even determined acts that one performs in order to receive a gold star. On the contrary, while pleasing God may consist of and require any number of acts, the concept refers to an all-encompassing lifestyle. It is a way of living that permeates the individual to such a degree that pleasing God is no longer simply about what I should and should not do; it is who you are and the way you conduct all of your life in relation to God.
Augustine probably summarized it best when he said: “Love God and do as you please.” While this may sound like an invitation to unfettered living, it is not a license to do whatever you want. It means that we as believers have an ongoing, interactive relationship with God that will at times limit what we do while at the same time will give us greater freedom in other areas. The key is that we please God in every aspect of our lives. This is what Paul is calling the Thessalonians to do here, and this will be the overarching, guiding principle behind the more specific instructions he is about to give them. He is going to lay out some explicit conduct commands for them, but they are not the sum total of what it takes to please God.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 25
Q. 25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.